The Boys at Twilight

By Glyn Maxwell b. 1962 Glyn Maxwell
Alive to the lilac, dead to the blue,
Bees in the act till the lilac’s through,
There’s a boy with you and a boy with you.

And the boy with you as the sun goes red
And the lamps go rose and the old to bed
Has remembered words you forgot you said.

If the time comes up when the mind is ruled
Then the nastiest face you have ever pulled
Can’t winch you clear of his lost new world,

Can’t free him or loose him or let him forget
He’s the luckiest boy you have ever met
If the time comes up when the heart is set.

You can pass him lies like so much slack.
You can mouth to his bearers behind his back.
You can fake with a passion and love with a knack.

It’s hopeless. But hopelessness full of hope
Is the serious man on the end of the rope,
Is the ring and the race and the telescope,

Is the gibbering soul at the outhouse door,
Is the flapping aloft and the crawling ashore,
Is the meaning and matching and marching to war

All hopefulness. In the looks of the shy
Look clear through the fog and be certain why
When the galaxy lunges across the sky

The boys flare up with a hapless glow,
And follow it out to a woods they know
Green-smelling and smothered as years ago.

They sleep in the cold unswayable sight
Of all they envisage, the giant delight
That itself feels nothing but a scratching, slight

But not giving up. Oh, wipe them away.
There’s a boy tomorrow and a boy today,
Words they are going to remember to say,

Hopes they are going to remember from when
They have no idea but they feel them again,
Who are going to be boys, who have had to be men.

Glyn Maxwell, “The Boys at Twilight” from The Boys at Twilight: Poems 1990-1995. Copyright © 2000 by Glyn Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of Glyn Maxwell.

Source: The Boys at Twilight: Poems 1990-1995 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Glyn Maxwell b. 1962

POET’S REGION England

Subjects Living, Youth, Coming of Age, Relationships

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Tercet

 Glyn  Maxwell

Biography

Born in England to Welsh parents, Glyn Maxwell was educated at Oxford University and Boston University, where he studied both poetry and theater with Derek Walcott. This simultaneous training in two disciplines has enabled him to create innovative work across genres. Maxwell has written numerous verse plays as well as long narrative poems. The Sugar Mile (2005), a verse narrative set in a Manhattan bar a few days before . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Coming of Age, Relationships

POET’S REGION England

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Tercet

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.